Our Fellowship was born not only in revival, but in revelation as well … Age priorities are established here: election, with its design of christ character, is treated as the central sun of God’s eternal purpose; all other teachings, however much we value them, are regarded as so many planetary satellites.
The real danger is for other things to thrust themselves forward for priority: such as the flair for so-called Latter Rain; sensationalism which shows itself in exaggerated claims to Pentecostal endowments; platform showmanship; and other Gospel gimmicks. Sensationalism unaccompanied with the supernatural is definitely not of God.
We need leaders as Paul, stabilised by individual revelation from God, and uninfluenced by every new wind of doctrine that comes along. If we change our views every time something new comes on the spiritual market, it is a sign we have either lost our vision or never had one. In the same way, if we devote ourselves exclusively as a fellowship to the externalities of the visible, it is a sign that we are on our way out and lost to our vocation.
Can we say, "I have received from the Lord"? If we have, then we must see that healings and miracles are age necessities; and they become a genuine export from heaven only when we restore the spiritual ministry of the Word to its rightful place: "They went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following" (Mark 16 :20).
Though the matter be of God, yet if the dress, and manner, and end be from Satan, we have no great reason to expect success.
If Christ's whole life was vicarious, every aspect of piety was on our behalf and in our place. It is his faith, his obedience, his faithfulness, his prayer which avails for us. As our great high priest, he offers up worship and praise acceptable to a holy God, the fruit of a life of perfect faithfulness, flawless and pure. By virtue of that perfect intercession we are acceptable to God, having been brought by the grace of God to entrust ourselves into his hands. We therefore have full and open access to God precisely because Christ himself has full and open access to God. It is fully and only in Christ's mediation that we have such confidence to know that the way is open.
- Sola Scriptura - Scripture alone
- Sola Gratia - grace alone
- Sola Fide - faith alone
- Solus Christus - Christ alone
- Soli Deo Gloria - to the glory of God alone
Take myself as an example. I opposed indulgences and all the papists, but never with force. I simply taught, preached and wrote God's Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything... I did nothing; I let the Word do its work. (Martin Luther, from a sermon on 10th March, 1522)
Luther didn't put the success of the Reformation down to his greatness. It wasn't his ability as a preacher. It wasn't his cleverness. It was the Word of God that was the key to the success of the Reformation. God's Word and God's Word alone was the power behind the Reformation.
Luther wasn't worried about gimmicks to gain adherents to his cause. He wasn't always thinking of a new strategy or programme to bring them in. He had confidence in the Word of God.
That really struck me. For Luther preaching the Word was the only way to success. Yet so often today it seems that the Word is sidelined by the latest methods for success. But Luther's idea of success wasn't based on market research or sociology. He didn't speak to the 'experts' or conduct extensive interviews of the 'unchurched'. He had a far greater authority: God Himself! Luther believed what God said about the efficacy of His Word (Isa 55:11; Rom 10:17).
By the way, it's interesting that, despite the various methods built on tons of data collected in recent years, research still points to Luther's concept of success as the right one. Although many studies have been made of the unchurched, asking them what would make them choose a church, a few years ago Thom Rainer took a different approach and asked formerly unchurched people why they did choose a church. The results were surprising to those who had relied on interviews of the currently unchurched, but would have been no surprise to Martin Luther. 88% said it was doctrine that led to their choice of church and 90% said preaching. (Only 11% cared about worship style.)
Martin Luther had confidence in God's Word to do its work, and that confidence freed him from the burden of having to be successful. As he said, while he slept or drank beer with his friends, the Word was doing its work. Luther didn't feel he had to convert people; that's God's job which He does through His Word and Spirit. Luther simply had to proclaim the Word and let it do its job. Luther didn't need to coerce people into believing; He believed in the power of God's Word to bring faith. Such confidence in the power and efficacy of the Word of God removes the pressure on us to save people; only God can save. All we can do is preach the Gospel, proclaim the Word.
Martin Luther had confidence in God's Word. Do we? Do we proclaim the Word and let it do its work, or are we always chasing after the latest gimmick? Do we trust that God will save through the preaching of the Gospel, or is our confidence in style rather than substance?
We need to be like Luther and trust God's promises that His Word is effective. We need to be like Luther and have confidence in God's Word to do its work.